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There is No Such Thing as Quick and Dirty. Why You Need a Discovery Phase.

April 9, 2015
Discovery, Project Management

You can never underestimate the importance of the discovery phase of a project, in which we determine a client’s needs, goals, strategic imperatives and desired outcomes. In my attempt to put together a Top 10 Reasons list of why this phase is so crucial when beginning a project, it all boiled down to the two most important: time and money.

The discovery phase will save you time.

At first this does not seem to be the case, as this process appears to take away valuable time at the beginning of the project in which nontangible deliverables are being developed. In the discovery phase, taking the appropriate amount of time to truly scope out, analyze and build a plan that all parties are comfortable with is almost always half the battle. In identifying, defining and capturing the true problems and goals of each project, you are building a blueprint that is easy to follow and maintain. As you address the needs of all the stakeholders and users, there are fewer miscommunications along the way, eliminating the need for any work to be re-done. This saves time as gaps are identified and planned for in the beginning, and there are few to no “But, what about this?” or “We didn’t take into account that!” along the way. 

A truly great discovery will not only identify the needs of the project in question, but should also be an important stepping stone into other projects that may involve the same creative concept, market, etc. For example, in developing a creative strategy for TV, a creative concept that identifies the true needs of the client can be used across multiple media, whether or not those media are being worked on at the moment, and will save time in the long run. 

And when you think in terms of “time is money,” you reach the most important reason: 

The discovery phase will save you money.

Yes, it’s true. The best-laid plans, in which the true goals and objectives are identified up front and clearly communicated to all parties, allow for fewer missteps along the way. When time is wasted, resources are wasted and thus money is wasted, too. Re-doing work will cost both the agency and the client more money, which no one wants. And if the project is not a success and a follow-up deliverable needs to replace it, even more money is wasted. 

Plus, great plans can used to help facilitate newer projects that stem from the original, saving money on another discovery phase. 

The lynchpin of both reasons why you need a discovery phase is communication. The true purpose of a discovery is not just to identity needs and goals, but to place everyone involved on the same page, so that the plan for execution will be understood by all.  Everyone will know what to do and what to expect, leaving little room for disappointment. 

Gina Wanless

At the time of this post, Gina was a Project Manager at Brown, Parker & DeMarinis Advertising.

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